Performance Feedback – What’s Stopping You?

performance feedbackResearch consistently tells us that employees feel they don’t get enough feedback. I guess we knew that. What’s more puzzling (to me at least) is that research also shows us that some managers actually want to give more feedback – but don’t


If you want to give feedback – couldn’t you just, err, do it?


OK, let’s be sensible, there are some good reasons why managers who want to give performance feedback aren’t giving that feedback. Here’s my take on what those reasons might be (and what to do about them):


  1. We don’t know how to give effective performance feedback

Most of us have – at some time – been given performance feedback hasn’t exactly been useful. It’s quite easy to give feedback badly. But it’s also quite easy to deliver it well. I’ve written a lot about this (you can read a whole range of blogs on giving constructive criticism here and my blog ‘5 Ways to Give Praise’ here) and without repeating myself here are some key points:


Effective Performance Feedback

For performance feedback to be effective it needs to be:



Whether we’re delivering praise or criticism, crucial to effective feedback is having the facts. Many managers want to give feedback but don’t want to be saying something on the lines of ‘Nice job Bill, keep it up’ (say what?). The reality is, if we want to be the kind of manager who regularly gives excellent performance feedback we have to have in place systems for monitoring employee performance against agreed performance objectives or standards. Why? Because monitoring gives us ‘evidence’ – the facts that enable us to give the type of feedback employees want and need



Employees want performance feedback on what they do, not on who they are. Very few employees appreciate feedback based on their characteristics or personality traits (e.g. ‘you need to improve your attitude’ or ‘you’re very confident’). Why? Because this type of feedback is judgemental, not objective. Very few people like to be judged. The answer is to focus on the employee’s behaviours – and only their behaviours. (Read about constructive criticism and the focus on behaviours here)



Employees will always want to know why we are giving the performance feedback – to understand the meaning of it. The easiest way to make our feedback meaningful is to clearly describe why we are giving the feedback. My model A>R>C really helps with this. Here’s how it works:


  • Action:  ‘When you …’
  • Result:  ‘What happened was…’
  • Consequence: ‘The consequence is …’


Example: When you showed Client A the research you had done on their business the result was she said she was really impressed by the insights you had provided. The consequence is she now wants us to make a proposal for a further piece of business. That’s a really good outcome for us so thank you and well done


It’s all about helping the employee see the impact of their actions on the business – helping them to see that what they are doing really makes a difference (either positively or negatively). That‘s what makes the performance feedback meaningful


  1. We don’t have the confidence to give performance feedback

The first step in building confidence in giving performance feedback is learning the ‘how to’. I guess I’ve said enough about that? (See above!)


The second step is accepting we have the right to give performance feedback. Many managers I know seem to feel the need to gain permission to undertake probably the most important part of their role – giving performance feedback. There’s simply no need to ask this permission (from ourselves or anyone else) or to apologise.  We need to understand, believe and embrace our ‘management rights’ – including our right to give performance feedback (Read more about ‘management rights’)


The third step in building confidence is to take action. In any field, in any area, the way we build confidence is by; taking action, getting results, reviewing those results and taking action again. The same goes for giving performance feedback. Of course our actions may not be perfect every time (who wants a perfect boss anyway?) but if we concentrate on giving feedback that’s factual, objective and meaningful we won’t go very far wrong


  1. We don’t have the time to give performance feedback

Giving performance feedback is probably the most important job a manager has, because it’s performance feedback that improves employee performance and employee satisfaction. I know, I know, clients come first – although how we’re going to retain clients without high performing staff I don’t know – and there are many, many claims on our time. But please, find time for performance feedback and see how it drives high employee performance and skyrockets employee satisfaction


management trainingJoan Henshaw is the author of the ’10 Minute Management’ series of books and videos. Read about these practical, step-by-step books HERE and videos HERE



4 Responses to Performance Feedback – What’s Stopping You?

  1. Hi Joan

    Excellent blog post. I think managers often worry that they will be unpopular if they give feedback especially when it is delivering some bad news. It’s also useful to keep things in perspective as in my experience the number of times you have to give negative feedback will be far outweighed by the times you can give positive feedback.

    Duncan Brodie
    Goals and Achievements

  2. joanhenshaw says:

    Hi Duncan

    Many thanks for the comments. Yes, many managers do worry about the popularity aspect which I guess would be a real danger if (as some managers I’ve met) you only give feedback when there’s a problem! You are so right about the perspective. Unless you are managing a chronic under performer (which does happen), and if you are managing employee effectively on an ongoing basis then there should be more positive feedback than negative

    Thanks again


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